March 25, 2005:
During its meeting in Washington, D.C., Feb. 28 through
Mar. 3, the National Organic Standards Board adopted
two recommendations for changes to the NOP Final Rule
and agreed to post a guidance document for another round
of public comment concerning access to pasture for organic
ruminant livestock, such as dairy cattle. The intent
of the Board is to make sure that the requirements for
pasture are clear and enforceable.
Prior to the meeting, the National Organic Program
(NOP) requested that the NOSB provide guidance concerning
the pasture requirements. The NOSB received over 8,000
comments in support of the Livestock Committee’s
draft clarifying that pasture is required for organic
ruminant animals. In addition, approximately 50 dairy
farmers from around the country attended and testified
during the meeting.
To review the facts: The NOP Final Rule defines “pasture”
as “land used for livestock grazing that is managed
to provide feed value and maintain or improve soil,
water, and vegetative resources” (7 CFR 205.2).
Pasture for ruminants is required under the Livestock
Health Care Practice Standard (7 CFR 205.238) and under
Livestock Living Conditions (7 CFR 239). However, the
Final Rule does allow for temporary confinement under
As stated in previous NOSB recommendations, requiring
pasture for ruminants ensures that organic production
systems provide living conditions in which animals can
satisfy their natural behavior patterns, emphasize preventative
measures for animal health care, and answer consumer
expectations of humane animal management. Ideally, organic
pasture management should reflect a synthesis of crop
and livestock production principles that work from the
soil up to promote an interdependent community of plants
Recommended rule changes
In order to clarify that pasture is required during
the growing season, throughout the productive life of
the animal, the NOSB recommended the following rule
- Recommended rule change for §205.239(a)(2)
The language in §205.239(a)(2) would be amended
§205.239(a)(2) Access to pasture for ruminants
Ruminant animals grazing pasture during the growing
This includes all stages of life except:
a) birthing; b) dairy animals up to 6 months of age;
and c) beef animals during the final finishing stage,
not to exceed 120 days. Note: Lactation of dairy animals
is not a stage of life under which animals may be
denied pasture for grazing.
- Recommended rule change for 205.239(a)(1) and 205.239(b)(2)
Language within the Final Rule is ambiguous with respect
to how specific provisions apply to livestock at different
stages of life. Sections 205.239(a)(1) and 205.239(b)(2)
use the term “stage of production” with
regard to access to the outdoors and temporary confinement.
Section 205.237 (a)(2), however, uses the term “stage
of life” to describe the allowance for specific
levels of feed supplements or additives.
Development of enforceable standards for “stage
of production” is problematic, particularly
for dairy animals. While “life” encompasses
the total span of an animal’s life, “production”
could be understood to refer only to that portion
of life during which the animal produces milk.
The NOSB recommends a rule change to make the language
in §205.239(a)(1) and §205.239(b)(2) consistent
with the language in §205.237(a)(2). The language
in §205.239(a)(1) would be amended to read,
“Access to outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise
areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight suitable to
the species, its stage of production life, the climate,
and the environment.
The language in §205.239(b)(2) would be amended
to read “animal’s stage of production
NOSB guidance on access to pasture
What follows is the NOSB's draft guidance language
regarding access to pasture for ruminant livestock.
The NOSB welcomes public comment on the draft until
May 20, 2005.
Guidance for interpretation of §205.239(a)(2)
NOSB is seeking public comment on its “Livestock
Committee Recommendation for Guidance Pasture
Requirements” until May 20, 2005.
The draft guidance language is reproduced
here, or it can be downloaded from http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/TodaysNews.html
Comments can be submitted by:
- Mail: The National Organic Standards
Board; c/o Arthur Neal; Room 4008 - South
Building; 1400 and Independence Avenue,
SW; Washington, D.C. 20250-0001
- E-mail: NOSB.Livestock@usda.gov
- Fax: (202) 205-7808
Comments are welcome on organic system
plan requirements; temporary confinement;
and what constitutes “appropriate
pasture conditions.” In particular,
the NOSB seeks input on specific "dry
matter intake from pasture" language;
reference to regional NRCS prescribed grazing
standards; and whether or not any of the
text below should be recommended to the
NOP for rule changes.
Please clearly indicate if you are for
or against the Board recommendation, or
some part of it, and why. Include specific
recommended wording changes as appropriate,
and feel free to include copies of articles
or other references that support your comments.
Only relevant material should be submitted.
A. Organic System Plan
Ruminant livestock shall graze pasture during the months
of the year when pasture can provide edible forage.
The Organic System Plan shall have
e goal of providing grazed feed greater than 30% dry
matter intake on a daily basis during the growing season
but not less than 120 days. The Organic System Plan
shall include a timeline showing how the producer will
satisfy the goal to maximize the pasture component of
total feed used in the farm system. For livestock operations
with ruminant animals, the operation’s Organic
System Plan shall describe: 1) the amount of pasture
provided per animal; 2) the average amount of time that
animals are grazed on a daily basis; 3) the portion
of the total feed requirement that will be provided
from pasture; 4) circumstances under which animals will
be temporarily confined; and 5) the records that are
maintained to demonstrate compliance with pasture requirements.
B. Temporary Confinement
Temporary confinement means the period of time when
ruminant livestock are denied pasture. The length of
temporary confinement will vary according to the conditions
on which it is based (such as the duration of inclement
weather) and instances of temporary confinement shall
be the minimum time necessary. In no case shall temporary
confinement be allowed as a continuous production system.
All instances of temporary confinement shall be documented
in the Organic System Plan and in records maintained
by the operation.
Temporary confinement is allowed only in the following
- During periods of inclement weather such as severe
weather occurring over a period of a few days during
the grazing season;
- Conditions under which the health, safety, or well
being of an individual animal could be jeopardized,
including to restore the health of an individual animal
or to prevent the spread of disease from an infected
animal to other animals;
- To protect soil or water quality
C. Appropriate Pasture Conditions
Appropriate pasture conditions shall be determined
in accordance with the regional Natural Resources Conservation
Service Conservation Practice Standards for Prescribed
Grazing (Code 528) for the number of animals in the
Organic Systems Plan.
Jim Riddle is chair of the National Organic Standards
Board and a regular contributor to NewFarm.org.